Atlanta Falcons Defense Starts Slow, Adjusts Well Against Chiefs

By Michael Collins

In a game that looked sure to be an offensive shootout with two gunslinging quarterbacks in the first half, the Atlanta Falcons defense took control in the second half, and the Falcons throttled the Kansas City Chiefs 40-24 at Arrowhead Stadium.

The game simply came down to who blinked first, and that blink came in the third quarter, when Kansas City kicker Ryan Succop doinked a 40-yard field goal attempt off the right upright. It was all downhill for the Chiefs from there.

Up until that missed field goal, each offense had looked unstoppable, and each defense had looked inept, particularly against the pass. The two quarterbacks in the game, Matt Ryan and Matt Cassel, had plenty of time to sit back comfortably in the pocket, and have their pick of receivers.

The biggest difference in the first and second halves was the adjustment that Atlanta made on defense. Unable to get pressure on Cassel at all in the first half, and leaving gaping holes for the Chiefs running backs, they brought different blitz packages and gambled with some pressure coming out of the secondary.

The gambles worked.

The Chiefs looked anemic in the second half, with possessions ending in a missed field goal, a fumble, and two interceptions.

But even in making the right second half adjustments, there is still a lot of work to be done on the Falcons defense.  First, and primarily, tackling. All too often, Atlanta was guilty of sloppy arm-tackling attempts, which allowed the ball carrier to gain extra yards. Second, the secondary still got beat down field on big plays too often, allowing four different Chiefs receivers to catch passes of 20+ yards.

Offensively the Falcons did practically everything they wanted to do, albeit against a depleted Kansas City defense. Both Julio Jones and Roddy White had big days, and Tony Gonzalez had a successful return to Arrowhead Stadium, complete with a goal post dunk after his only touchdown catch.

One area of concern on offense for Atlanta has to be running back Michael Turner. The preseason is over, and more should have been expected out of Turner against a Chiefs defense that was minus some key members. Turner only rushed for 32 yards on 11 carries, and looked basically lethargic throughout the game. Atlanta will need more than 2.9 yards per carry from Turner to get where they want to go this season.

The Falcons didn’t turn the ball over at all, and were only penalized twice for 12 yards. Cornerback Christopher Owens did get into a sideline scrum with Chiefs running back Shaun Draughn, that resulted in offsetting personal fouls, and will probably cost both players a nice chunk of change.

Atlanta now gets to prepare for their first of four prime time games this season, with the Denver Broncos coming into Atlanta for a Monday Night Football game on ESPN on Sept. 17

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